A man has told police that he killed Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy whose disappearance on his way to school in 1979 helped give rise to the missing-children’s movement that put youngsters’ faces on milk cartons.
Pedro Hernandez was picked up late on Wednesday in New Jersey, according to a law enforcement official, and was being questioned on Thursday by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Hernandez, who is believed to be in his mid-60s, worked at a convenience store in the neighborhood where Patz lived, and moved to New Jersey shortly after the boy disappeared 33 years ago, according to a second law enforcement official.
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Etan Patz on a milk carton. Photo Credit: Photo News
He has been tied to the case in the past, and investigators recently received a phone call that tipped them off to him, the officials said.
Hernandez said he suffocated the boy, then put the body in a box, walked down the street and left the box in an alley, the first official said. No body or box has been recovered, and Hernandez has not been charged.
Investigators said they were still trying to confirm details of the man’s story. The development came just before the Friday anniversary of Etan’s disappearance, when detectives typically receive a landslide of hoaxes and false leads.
“Let me caution you that there’s still a lot of investigating to do,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Wearing a backpack with elephants printed on it, Etan, a boy with sandy brown hair and a toothy grin, vanished on May 25, 1979, while walking alone to his school bus stop for the first time, two blocks from his home in New York’s busy SoHo neighborhood.
33 years later Etan’s parents, Stan and Julie Patz, still live in the same apartment because they were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They have endured decades of false leads and a lack of hard evidence.
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